Insurance coverage is probably one of the most confusing parts about traveling. Most people don’t bother with it because they don’t think they’ll need it or they don’t want to navigate the world of insurance for their pleasure trip. Others might choose the default option by purchasing a policy for their trip upon checkout of buying their tickets. One click of the mouse on Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity or any of the other booking engines and you’re protected, right?
Not so, as I learned recently.
I purchased tickets through Travelocity for a round trip ticket on EVA Airlines to Bangkok. When the flight got canceled and I was bumped to a flight out of Seoul that didn’t leave until the following day (leaving me with a 26 hour layover), I inquired about whether the travel insurance I purchased for $50 from Travelocity covered such an incidence. I was thinking I could just cancel the ticket, get a refund and then rebook on another airline that could accommodate my schedule. Wrong assumption.
While the coverage does give me $25,000 in evacuation, $1,500 in lost baggage reimbursement, and reimbursement in the case of illness or death of myself, family member or traveling companion, I had no protection if the airline canceled my flight.
My first piece of advice is to never purchase insurance (as I did) through your booking engine. These are designed to provide an easy-buy option with minimal coverage. You’re better off choosing a policy from an insurance company directly.
And, know exactly what you’re purchasing before handing over your credit card. While I would never have anticipated that the airline would cancel my flight (and I was basically SOL until I called EVA myself for help) in the future I will definitely make a different choice for my coverage.
A Primer on Insurance
Many health insurance policies cover travel abroad in the case of an accident and may reimburse you for emergency and urgent care expenses once you’ve paid out of pocket. Government programs such as Medicare, however, generally do not cover care outside of your country of residence. Check with your provider to confirm if and how much coverage you may have. If you do have coverage, keep in mind that it might not include activities such as adventure sports or riding a motorcycle.
If your health insurance doesn’t cover international travel, keep your insurance card with you anyway in the event you need it while traveling to and from your destination.
Evacuation insurance can ensure transportation to a medical facility in the case of a serious accident or illness in which you don’t want to be treated by the local hospital. For example, you would want to be taken to the nearest hospital with Western-trained doctors in the case of a severely broken bone caused by a fall or head injuries sustained in an accident. The cost of such an evacuation can easily top out at $60,000. With evacuation insurance, you would be responsible for your deductible and little, if anything, else.
In the past I have bought policies from both MEDEX and Medjet Assist. Though I’ve never had to use either (thank goodness!), the process of signing up can be done in literally minutes. The cost is a fraction of the amount of your entire trip and minor compared to the potential out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the case of an accident.
Travel insurance is appropriate if you’ve shelled out a heap of money for a tour package or non-refundable hotel or air tickets. For a relatively small fee, you’ll be reimbursed in the event you have to cancel your trip. Depending on the policy, other benefits may include baggage reimbursement, medical, dental and evacuation. Check out Allianz Travel Insurance where they specialize in travel insurance for those that might need to unexpectedly cancel their trip or Insure My Trip to compare prices from about 20 different providers.
Photo credit: Mat Honan
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